Category Archives: Cooking

Olio – September 19, 2014

Olio:  a miscellaneous collection of things

Today’s sun turned to rain, 40% that rained off and on all day, so no staining could be done.  We had an appointment to get one of the cars serviced in a nearby town, the same town in which the Sherman Williams Store is located.  After the car servicing this morning, we went to Sherman Williams as the Assistant Manager had told me on Wednesday night at the coffee shop where our Knit Night group meets, that the stain I needed would be 40% off this weekend.  When we got there, the Manager said that his Assistant was incorrect that it was only their products, but since I had been told and their sign was ambiguous, he honored the discount for us this one time only.  We came home with the 10 gallons that will be needed to finish our log home staining.

Last night, Son #2 called to give us an update on their house renovation progress in preparation for selling their home and asked if we would check for property of about 10 acres, preferably with some sort of dwelling on it within their price range.  A bit of internet research, we came up with a list and set about today to check out some of our finds.  As we live in the mountains, in a rural county, this sent us on a 3 hour road trip.

On our return home, we took an less than direct route to check out the address of a house on land that we had seen before and came around a curve to see a beautiful gaited dark bay riderless horse headed right down the road toward us.  He turned and trotted back around the fence, past his owner’s home to a poorly attached gate, then back to where we had first encountered him.  I got out and knocked on the house door, but no one was home, so I opened the gate and he went right in, but was quite agitated that he couldn’t get past the next gate to the other horses.  Unsure how he got out, and due to his agitation, we opened the other gate and let him join the other horses.  There was a bit of tussling between them, but we figured it was better than having him run up and down the road.  This is the second time Mountaingdad has encountered a loose horse at that farm, the first time, he and a FedEx man got him back in the fence.  Perhaps that guy should do something about his fencing.  We can never catch anyone there to let him know about his escape artist.

This is the season that pork is less expensive and though I prefer to buy from someone I know, I couldn’t pass up the 10+ pound shoulder roast for under $2 a pound at the local grocer.  I had it cut in half and today put half in the crock pot with a mixture of raw cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and crushed red pepper and slow cooked it into Barbecue, 3 1/2 pounds worth.  It has been packaged in 1 pound packages and frozen, the remaining 1/2 pound set aside for lunch in the next day or two.  The other half is frozen for now and it too will be turned into Barbecue soon.  It is nice to have such a quick meal ready in the freezer.

Tomorrow, I will can my last batch of salsa and a batch of Green Tomato Chutney at the suggestion of a blogger friend, http://familyfaithfoodfabric.wordpress.com/, if you have never read her blog, you should.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

A Touch of Fall

This past weekend was to be a staining weekend.  Son #1 and Grand #1 came in on an early morning bus Saturday, but the day dawned as many have lately, overcast, foggy and high humidity.  As the fog cleared, it was still overcast, so the staining was put on hold yet again and since he was here to work, we tackled the garage door that hasn’t worked properly in a couple of years.  We have had to hold the button constantly to raise or lower the door and the electric sensor was not working at all.  This rendered the remote in the car useless.  We made a trip to the nearest hardware store, in the next town since our local one went out of business and purchased a circuit tester and a few odds and ends.  He was able to isolate where power was no longer reaching the sensor and with a bit of rewiring and door adjustment, it now goes up, comes down gently and reverses when it hits an obstacle or the light beam is broken.  The morning harvest sat on the counter throughout the day.

Yesterday was similar weather, but he managed to get the garage doors caulked with me following as clean up before he and Grand caught a bus for home.  Once back to our farm, I tackled the Saturday harvest and made and canned 10 pints of Tom Tom Salsa, though I left out most of the lemon juice as hubby felt it was too tart for his taste.  Yesterday’s afternoon’s storms brought a significant temperature drop.  This morning dawned quite cool and still cloudy.

Each time I can, I get my exercise hauling empty jars up to the kitchen and full jars back down to the root cellar.  The shelves in there are quite rewarding now as they fill with jars of tomatoes, chili tomatoes, salsa, pasta sauce and XXX hot sauce.  The drying shelves are filling with garlic and Burgess Buttercup Squash.  There are many more of them ripening in the garden and I can’t get to the sweet potatoes anymore until the squash and pumpkin vines start dying off.

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As I was taking Son #1 to the bus, I asked him if there was a good way to reinforce the bottom of one of the pseudo orange crates that I purchased years ago at Michael’s Arts and Crafts so that I could load the full jars to the basement and for bringing canned goods and produce to them when I make my trips to their house.  We started purchasing the crates when he was in college and his library that he hauled from dorm room to dorm room to apartment were shelved in them.  Each semester, adding a few for new texts and other acquired books.  When I moved across the state to our new farm, my handthrown pottery, china, and books were packed in similar crates for the move.  Some of those crates have the bottom slats stapled on at an angle, others straight in.  I have feared having the bottom drop out of one.  He suggested taking a 1/2″ thick board cut to the width of the crate, drilling pilot holes and screwing the boards on the bottom across the slats.

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One of my projects this morning was to reinforce one of those crates, then to prepare and can 11 pints of pasta sauce and a pint of Pickled Jalapeno peppers.  My past two days have produced 21 pints of tomato products.   The garden is still full of tomatoes and peppers, but the jars are getting scarce.  I haven’t been able to locate any on Craigs list this time of year and I don’t really want to buy more in Big Lots or the Grocery.  I will can using the last 5 pints and last 11 quarts then start freezing bags of tomatoes.  The freezer us under utilized this year, other than chickens.  Unless we end up buying apples to pare and freeze, there will be plenty of space for quart or gallon bags of frozen tomatoes.

Today as I was boiling a pot of water for peeling the pounds and pounds of tomatoes, one of the burners on our flat top stove failed.  I had mixed feelings about a flat top stove when we bought our appliances 7 years ago, but for it to match the refrigerator and dishwasher, that was my only choice.  I guess we are going to have to get a repair estimate, but this isn’t good timing with canning going on and with estimated taxes due.

The Hot Shelf

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Every few days, the tomatillos, jalapeños, and habaneros overwhelm me and processing takes over the morning. Four more pints of hot green salsa, 1 more pint of pickled jalapeños, and 4 more 1 cup jars of  XXX hot sauce (http://wp.me/p3JVVn-GH) were made for winter storage. The spicy globe basil was finally dry and it was crumbled and stored in jars 2 1/2 pints worth.
The tomatoes are beginning to ripen quickly so I will stop freezing them and start canning chili tomatoes, pasta sauce and more Casa Del Platero (http://wp.me/p3JVVn-GK)  salsa for winter.
Peeks under the row covers show green bush beans developing, brocolli, chard, kale and cabbages getting some size on them. The winter squash and pumpkins are so verdant that it is difficult to see the fruits hidden in the jungle of leaves.

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This has been a good garden season so far. Hopefully there will be lots to eat this winter.
Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

Salsa Season

With tomatoes and peppers taking over the empty spaces in my kitchen, sauces and salsas are the order of the day most days.  The lion’s share of the tomatoes become pasta sauce for the quick winter meal.  With or without meat added on serving day, spaghetti or penne cooked al dente and a salad or green beans sauteed in olive oil with a splash of lemon juice and sometimes a chunk of bread if I have been baking.

Another couple dozen jars will be canned tomato chunks with green chilies for using when I make my prize winning pot of chili on a cold eve.

Hubby and Son#1 love salsa, fresh or canned, green or red.  I have made one batch of tomatillo/jalapeno salsa and will make more with the next harvest of tomatillos.  Pico de Gallo is always welcome, but only happens when everything is fresh from the garden.  This year, I am going to try canning my own salsa as the brand of choice here has risen in price to nearly $5 per pint. To make this, I am going to use the one referenced in yesterday’s XXX hot sauce post.  We were visiting our cousin at their casa in Mexico and they have a husband and wife staff.  He cares for the grounds and does maintenance, she cleans, deals with linens and if you purchase food, will prepare breakfast and dinner for you for a very small fee.  If you want a great place to visit, check out www.Casadelplatero.net .  Our cousin likes his salsa too and this was served with breakfast and dinner’s in.

Casa del Platero Salsa

2 medium tomatoes, cut in half

1 medium onion cut in halves or quarters

2 jalapeno peppers cut in half lengthwise

2 cloves garlic

salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet in a small amount of cooking oil (I use Olive or grapeseed) cook the tomatoes, onion and peppers cut side down until lightly browned and softened.  Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, don’t let it brown, it gets bitter.  Place all in a blender or food processor and blend until a chunky salsa consistency.  Salt and pepper to taste.  May be served warm or chilled.  It will keep for a week or two in a jar in the refrigerator.  If you want it less spicy, just use less jalapeno, if you want more fire, add more or add a half of a habanero pepper.

As I plan to can it this year, I will add 1 Tbs lemon juice and 1/2 tsp pickling salt to each hot pint jar before spooning in the salsa and will water bath can it for 25 minutes (I live above 2000 feet so adjust to your altitude) or pressure can it for 15 minutes.

The remaining tomatoes will be eaten fresh or canned plain for those days when I just need canned tomatoes for a recipe.  It looks like a bumper crop this year.

Summer Delights

Yesterday was miserable!  My day started with dog and chicken chores in the rain, not a gentle summer shower, a torrential downpour.  I had moved Broody Girl to the auxiliary chicken run and chicken tractor the day before and had put her in the chicken tractor with some amusing effort the night before.  Her food was in there, but not her water.  She squawked unmercifully until well after dark.  Figuring she was better off in the tractor since it was raining, I attempted to put her water in with her, but she dove past me into the run in the rain so I just left the door to the tractor open.  Now I have heard that turkey’s are stupid enough to drown in the rain.  That may be an old mountain tale, but Broody Girl was stupid enough to stand out in the pouring rain nearly all day instead of going back inside the tractor.  Last night I felt sorry for her and returned her to the coop, very wet and very agitated.

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The first thing she did was go to the nesting box and I ran her off.  She is showing me her wet displeasure.  This morning she exited the coop with the others and has stayed outside.  Yay!

Once those chores were done, I spent 90 minutes in the dentist chair getting a temporary crown on the tooth I broke 7 weeks ago when I went to Northern Virginia to pick up Grandson #1 for the summer.  As soon as I got home from that, the dentist did a build up so the tooth wouldn’t break anymore until he could see me for the crown prep.  This is not a fun time.  It is my 6th crown. 

As we were headed home, still in the pouring rain, we picked up the power washer as scheduled and in spite of the rain, our neighbor with my help cleared the covered front porch and open back deck of plants and furniture and he power washed both.  He was soaked from the effort and the rain and I was also from helping to move furniture and the hose from front to back.

Today is still overcast and has rained off and on, but not like yesterday.  The weather broke enough after we returned the power washer for me to do some harvest.  It is definitely that time of year. 

The two trips out to the garden resulted in a huge bowl of mostly hot peppers and another of tomatillos.  A few tomatoes are getting picked each day and a few lemon cukes.  The counter full of goodies encouraged me to haul out the water bath canner, a box of jars, and the other necessaries to put some of it away for the winter.

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The cayennes were strung to dry, the habaneros and a couple pounds of tomatillos were made into another batch of the I No Longer Have Taste Buds XXX hot sauce (son said it was wonderful), the jalapenos pickled for hubby, the rest of the tomatillos canned in quarters and the lemon cukes pickled in a dill brine.  

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One afternoon’s canning session cooling on the counter.  A good addition to the goodies accumulating on the shelves for winter consumption.  As I’m a rather adventurous cook at this age, the XXX hot sauce must be documented so I can duplicate it next year.  My basic idea came from a visit to Mexico where the woman house staff made a salsa for us from Jalapenos, tomato, onion and garlic.  That one is good too.

I No Longer Have Taste Buds XXX Hot Sauce

a dozen or so medium Habanero peppers

2 lbs (16-20) tomatillos

1 medium onion

3-4 cloves garlic

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1 tsp pickling salt

1/2 c fresh of 2 Tbs dried cilantro

In a heavy non reactive pot, heat a couple of Tbs of Olive oil and saute the onion, chopped coarsely.  Quarter the habaneros with seeds (gloves are advised), peel and chop the garlic, remove the papery husk, wash and quarter the tomatillos.  In a blender, place the peppers, garlic, tomatillos, sauteed onion, lemon juice and salt and blend until fairly smooth.  Pour back into the heavy pot, add the cilantro and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking.  If you are going to can this for shelf stability, it should be water bath canned for 20 minutes in pint or cup jars.  It will keep for months in the refrigerator if just packed in hot jars and lids with bands applied.

I do love this time of year.  Enjoying the spoils of our garden and the labor of putting is away for winter enjoyment.  Soon I will be canning tomatoes and tomato sauce nearly every day, but it will be so good later.

Life is an adventure!

Salvage

Each evening as I harvested the day’s produce and eggs, bringing in a half to a full cup of raspberries, I got more frustrated with the results of my batch of jam.  The new berries were put in a wide mouthed pint jar and frozen, new ones added each night.  The original batch so sweet and so gummy that it didn’t even work well in a smoothie without melting it first.  Today’s harvest of berries filled the jar plus a half a cup or so.  After some research from various cookbooks, homesteading books, and the internet, I decided to see if I could salvage the batch.  Again, down came the pots, the jars and lids.   The original 6 jars were warmed slightly to thin the sickly sweet goo.  The new fresh and frozen berries crushed in the bottom of the jam making pot with the potato masher.   Once they were beginning to cook, the first batch was added back to the pot with a quarter cup of water and a good splash of lemon juice and cooked til a gel test on a spoon showed a product that jelled but didn’t clump.  The re-canning in clean jars with new lids has been done.  The now 7 jars have all given the satisfying pop as they cool, so they are all sealed.  The new process was less frothy looking and the foam easier to skim, so the jars are a pretty ruby color throughout.  After they cool and I can do a tip test, I will see if I have 7 jars of jam or 7 cups of raspberry syrup.  Hopefully, when I open one, I will have a jam that is spreadable.  It tasted better when I checked it.  When my peach jam didn’t jell (my fault for using old pectin), I bought liquid pectin and it seems to give a thicker consistency jam which I don’t like.

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If any of my readers out there have jam recipes for low sugar (not artificial sweetener, I can’t use that stuff), or have found a good source of recipes for low sugar jams, I would love to have it.  It is counter intuitive to  me that most jam recipes call for sugar equal to or more than the amount of fruit.  That takes a healthy product and makes it unhealthy.

 

It begins

I love this time of year.  The garden is producing, giving us goodness for dinner and extra to put away for the winter.  Today, the bulk of the peas were harvested.  Two hours of shelling, a meal enjoyed with some and after dinner, blanching, chilling, and freezing.  I would like to have at least twice what was harvested put away, but at least there are 10 meals worth of fresh frozen peas out of our garden to enjoy when the cold winds blow and the snows fall.

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I opened one of the jars of raspberry jam and I am so disappointed.  The jam is too sweet and somewhat gummy.  Hopefully, I will be able to harvest another quart or so and can try again using a low sugar recipe and get a product that I am happier with.  The jars I have can be used in smoothies or stirred into oatmeal, but there is no way I would spread it on homemade bread or biscuits.

I am lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

Suds and Sweets

Nope, not beer, though I have been known to make it too.  I realized that my homecrafted soap was nearly gone and as it takes 3 to 4 weeks to cure, I knew that I was going to have to get brave and make a batch or two on my own without my mentor’s help.  I have made two batches in her kitchen and only one here alone.  I have been procrastinating but realized that if I didn’t get over my reluctance and accept that I am still a novice and it might not be perfect, we were going to run out.  Summer is not a good time to run out of soap.  Sure, I could go to the grocery or the Farmers’ Market and buy some, but that goes against my nature.

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Yesterday, the soap making box was hauled out.  I quickly realized that I didn’t have the exact oils that the recipe I selected called for, but know that you can substitute some.  I quickly forgot rule #1, that in soap making, everything is weighed and I measured out the water for the lye mix in liquid ounces.  I measured the oils by weight though.  The recipe that I selected only filled my good mold about halfway, but I covered it, wrapped it in old towels and put it aside to saponify.  Today, when I pulled it out, it was a bit softer than the soap I made with my mentor, but the 6 bars are curing for use in a month.  Since the recipe only made 6 bars, I resupplied on the oils that I was missing yesterday so that I wouldn’t substitute and followed a new recipe to the letter.  When I added the essential oils to scent it, the soap seized and it is crammed and packed in the molds, covered to saponify.  It won’t be pretty, but it will be soap.

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Batch one curing.

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Batch two about to go under cover to saponify.

Today’s raspberry harvest brought me up to the 4 cups I needed to make jam.  Mind you, I don’t need any more jam, still having blueberry and blackberry left from last year, peach that I made a week ago, but I grew these raspberries and I want to savor them all winter.  So down came the pots and jars, the berries mashed, the sugar added and jam making round two for the season begun.

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Jam cooking while the jars heat beside it.

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Six one cup jars ready to for canning.

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Six jars cooling on the counter, as I listen to the satisfying pop as they cool and seal.

The rest of this year’s harvest of raspberries can be eaten as I pick, put in yogurt, and frozen for treats during the winter.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

Olio – June 18, 2014

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

Pet peeves of the day;

  • the trend of semi fast food restaurants to shout out across the dining area “Welcome to …” each time a patron enters any door of the establishment.  Do they really think that is appealing and welcoming?
  • also in a semi fast food restaurant or even a real restaurant for an employee to walk up to your table and grab the tray/plate before asking if you are finished with it and say, “May I take your …”  One literally tried to take the tray with my husband’s fries on it today while he was still eating them.
  • along the same vein, to be in an establishment and have not only your own server ask how your meal is, but anyone else that works there.  We have been asked at one steak place we patronize as many as 4 or 5 times by that many different people about how our meal/visit was while we are still seated and eating.  Let us enjoy our food in peace.

Today was resupply all the critters feed.  We managed to run out of dog food, cat food, chicken layer and chick starter grower all at the same time.  That was a car full.

On our way home, we stopped at a local greenhouse and bought 4 new Day-lily plants, different from the two that I have and also bought 3 more pepper plants as some of my heirloom starts didn’t grow once put in the garden.  Of course that mean garden work when we got home and it is HOT, HOT, and humid out there today.  Two of the Day-lily plants went in the perennial bed in the front of the house.  The garage wall bed had gotten grossly overgrown with grape iris, the purple ones that smell like grape Kool-aid.

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That is one of 4 huge clusters when they were blooming.  They haven’t been thinned in a few years, they were overrunning the English Daisies, and the bed had gotten weedy as well.  I dug them all out!  I hate to throw them away, but there are too many to replant.  I am going to load them in the tractor bucket and dump them where we don’t mow.  I bet some of them will come up next year and bloom there.  A few of them were moved to a bed by the deck.  The rest of the bed now has the other two Day-lily plants, two lavender plants, some English Daisies, a yellow poppy, three clusters of Dutch Iris plants that I divided from the deck area and on the opposite side of the walkway out of the garage side door, the Bronze fennel.  The bed is weeded, watered, and mulched with spoiled hay until I can get some more shredded mulch to apply to the bed.

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It looks sparse now, but will fill in quickly and have more variety.

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The haying is not going as quickly as we had hoped.  Jeff is trying to do too much at the same time.  They tettered the upper fields yesterday then came back and raked it into rows for baling, but the first bale was too green so they left it to mow the lower field and ran out of fuel. This afternoon the have turned the hay and

hopefully will get it baled this evening as we are due for rain for a few days.

The first batch of mustard is so good, there are 3 batches fermenting now to share. Two are Bavarian style and one is a repeat of the horseradish recipe.
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I think I am going to have to buy some sausages to grill soon.

Raspberries are ripening.  Tonight I harvested about a cup of them and resisted eating them as I picked.  They went into the freezer.  As soon as I have a quart, there will be a raspberry jam making session.

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Life is good on our mountain farm.

Let Us Preserve

Tis the season to start putting by for the long cold, unproductive months of winter.  We have cousins in Georgia and he has a son in college in Pennsylvania.  We are slightly more than half way in between for them and love to have them for the overnight visit as they drive up and back.  Yesterday afternoon they arrived bearing gifts of fresh Georgia peaches, pecans, and a loaf of a wonderful Artisan bread.  Some of the peaches are at a stage of ripeness where we can enjoy them fresh out of hand or as breakfast fruit, some needed quick attention.  Since our peach trees still are young and not really producing fruit, they are a treasure to enjoy.

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This morning they left to complete their trip north with a southbound return tomorrow and another night with us, so I pulled out the jam making supplies and set to work peeling, deseeding, chopping, measuring and making a batch of peach jam.  That is one jam I have never made before and not wanting to make too much, I first bought the ebook, The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving.  As I started collecting jars, I realized that most of my jelly jars have been given away full of jams and jellies and my stock was low.  The recipe said it made 6 cups, I had 5 1/2 cups worth of smaller jars, but figured that any surplus would go in a jar in the refrigerator to be used first.

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Enough made to get us through the winter and still send a couple of jars home with them Sunday morning.  My taste test is that it is sweeter than the berry, plum and pomegranate jams I have made in the past, but a bit on toast or stirred into yogurt or oatmeal will be nice.   The black cherry tree at the top of our road is ripe and my raspberries are ripening enough to sample a couple when in the garden, but if I’m going to do anything with them, I need more jam jars.

Jim’s comment when he came through the kitchen was that I sure was industrious.  I smiled and said it kept me out of trouble.

I love this time of year with new good things to eat appearing nearly daily from the garden or in this case, as a gift.

Next up is to try one or all three of the fermented mustard recipes from the current issue of taproot Issue 10::Seed magazine.  But wait, I don’t have jars!